April, 2021 Update

By DAVID HILMERS – Chief Medical Officer
To our faithful supporters:

We send our very best wishes to each of you. We are hopeful that the worst of the COVID pandemic is behind us as vaccines become more widely available across the globe. We continue to be grateful for your support during these difficult times.  Despite the travel restrictions that have been in place, we have utilized the internet to keep in touch with our national hepatitis program partners to provide training and patient-specific consultations.  In addition, we have used your donations to provide additional laboratory supplies, equipment, and anti-viral medications to our partners so that they can continue treating patients with hepatitis B and C.  We continue to advocate for our patients with chronic hepatitis as the focus of attention for many countries has been on COVID over the past year.  We are working closely with other large health organizations such as the WHO to ensure that those burdened with hepatitis are not forgotten during these trying times.  The following are recent updates from some of the countries in which we provide support.

Myanmar. In addition to the COVID epidemic, the country has been deeply affected by a military takeover of the government.  Until recently we had been conducting weekly training sessions and patient consultations with our partners in Putao and Yangon who are treating patients co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C.  However, we were forced to suspend these meetings due to disruptions in communications and difficulties with patient care in these locations.  We continue to be concerned for the safety of our colleagues and hope to resume our dialogues later this month.  We have been very encouraged by the progress that has been made in this program as nearly 100 patients have been placed on treatment for hepatitis C with many more being evaluated each week.

Papua New Guinea (PNG).  PNG has recently been struck by a wave of COVID infections.  It is particularly difficult for our colleagues because there are fewer than 500 doctors in a country of almost 10 million people.  This impact of this outbreak is compounded by the complex geography of this island nation.  We continue to support our partners in Popondetta with supplies and training support and have shipped several thousand hepatitis B test kits to the main hospital in Port Moresby to be used in evaluation of pregnant women.

Tonga and Vanuatu.  We have shipped fresh supplies of hepatitis B drugs to ensure that patients on chronic treatment have a continuation of their medications.

Kiribati. We continue to hold weekly meetings with hepatitis B providers in the country to discuss cases and provide training.  Our maternal to child prevention program is making steady progress and we have been helping the national hepatitis program develop a new long-term hepatitis B national policy.  A fresh supply of anti-viral drugs for current and new patients has been ordered and should arrive in time to prevent a lapse in the supply of medications.

North Korea.  There has been essentially no news from our partners in North Korea since the pandemic begins.  There are reports of widespread economic difficulties, so we continue to keep our patients and our colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.

Thank you again for your faithful support of our project.  We look forward to the day when personal contact with our partners and patients can begin anew.

Best wishes to all.


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